CO-Horts Blog

Monday, July 17, 2017

Be Local, Go Native and Be Diverse

It’s funny how your experiences can come together.  I’m sure many of you take part in buying local food, but what about your information and the plants in your landscape? 

Starting with local information, here is a bit of history.  Thanks to President Lincoln, the land grant college system was created.  To make a long story short, each state has a college within in this Land Grant system.  Most have the word State in their title like Colorado State University, Iowa State etc…  These colleges were started to bring college to the people and not just the rich.  Out of that grew Research Stations to help the local Agriculture industry and then Extension to help spread that information to the community.
Colorado State University, Old Main
So that leads to me and the wonderful coworkers in this Extension system.  Many counties or areas in all states have an Extension office with experts that can provide you with local great information in Agriculture, Landscaping, and Family Consumer Science and many more topics.  Some of our programs you may have heard of include 4H, Master Gardener, Native Plant Master and Food Safety Master.  Volunteers in these Master Programs go through garden training, many specific to their climate and soils, so they can help spread fact based information to their local community.  Many offices like ours in Mesa County run a Master Gardener Desk where these wonderful trained Volunteers can help answer your home landscape questions giving the Agents more time to help Green Industry professionals and growers.  Can’t get much more local than that.
So, what about the plants in your landscape?
Colorado State County Map

This winter I attended a talk by Entomologist (an insect guy) and Environmental Science Professor Doug Tallamy from the University of Delaware.  I knew native plants were important but he finally connected the dots for me.  In short, native plants are the key to supporting our natural food web.  Prof. Tallamy talked about how he followed a sparrow family.  Most of us think of birds eating seeds.  But seeds are only available at the end of the season.  Mom and dad sparrow made multiple trips to a local tree, I believe an oak, and brought their babies several hundred caterpillars.  I no longer worry about a few insects on a tree.  In fact, I just had a landscaper come in.  He had gone through our Master Gardener program and had learned about IPM, Integrated Pest Management, which is where you observe and only treat when the levels of insects reaches a certain threshold and the system.  He had a client with woolly aphids on a cottonwood tree.  But he also observed many, many lady bugs.  He brought in a sample for us to look at and all we could find was the fluff left from the woolly aphids, but no more aphids.  They were all eaten.  So that is an example of the food web taking care of the issue.  No conventional or organic sprays needed.  In summary, by planting natives, you provide food for the native insects, which in turn feed the birds, lizards, and other small critters which are in turn eaten by bigger animals and insects and animals creating balance to the whole system.   I also attended a talk by David Salmon of High Country Gardens, and he too was following the recommendations of Prof. Tallamy.

Landscape at Copper Creek Mall in Salt Lake City

This week walked through a Mall, yes you heard me right, a mall in Salt Lake City where they had directed a creek and was planted by mostly plants native to the area.  I thought it was beautiful.  It provided an experience and there were many people there enjoying the space.  So you can add a few non-natives, but try plant a high per cent of natives and enjoy.  This creates and keeps a sense of place alive.  If every town and city has the same plants in their landscapes, then they all start looking the same.  I find that boring.  And non-natives can become invasive which is a whole other conversation.  Embrace the natives and plant diversity so if there are issues, it’s not a big loss.  Plus a diversity of plants provides different sources of food for the food web.  Visit your local nursery that carries native plants to buy local.  Big box stores rarely carry natives that grow in your community.
So create a diverse landscape with local native plants and enjoy the wildlife around you.  And don’t forget to visit your local Extension office to get local, revel ant information because we know you can’t believe everything on the internet.  Get your research based information here.

Susan L Carter
Horticulture Agent, Arborist and Native Plant Master
CSU Extension, Tri River Area

1 comment:

  1. Well this blog post certainly describes the cruciality and imperativeness of plants and growing native plants. And I do agree that diversity of plants means more food for foodweb.